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How CIOs can pave the way to success in 2021

remote working
(Image credit: Shutterstock / maryna rodyukova)

This year has transformed how we approach work.

The disruption caused by the pandemic forced knowledge workers to rapidly shift work patterns almost overnight. From one day to the next, employees were looking to IT leaders to provide the tools they needed to stay connected and aligned as a team when physically apart. CIOs around the world were suddenly challenged to restructure tech-stacks, ensure remote compliance with security and data needs, and make sure entire organisations adopt and have access to the right tools.

Now that we’re out of the initial adaptation phase, it’s clear that distributed work is here to stay. Heading into the new year, CIOs and IT leaders—particularly those from within enterprise-level businesses—are facing a new challenge: how do we move from simply maintaining business continuity, to driving mission-critical business outcomes?

This question shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s part of the CIO job description, but the landscape has changed and with it, new considerations have to be taken into account. With 54 per cent of IT decision-makers looking to increase investment in collaboration applications, what do they need to know to drive value from their budget and thrive in the new year?

About the author

Katie Guzman is Product Management Lead, Growth & Adoption at Asana

Find tools that work at enterprise scale

Everyone knows there’s no shortage of business applications. In many cases, this makes sense—the IT team will need a different set of tools from accountants, who will need different apps from HR.

However, fragmentation doesn’t make sense at the cross-company level, especially when it comes to cross-functional communication, collaboration, project planning and tracking. In a recent survey conducted with enterprise organisations, 55 per cent of respondents said that they switch between apps because the work they’re doing cannot be done on the same app or tool, with a further 27 per cent noting that messages and actions are missed. To ensure that organizational workflows are maintained at enterprise level, figure out which tools integrate with your existing collaboration software and provide the admin and security capabilities required. As teams remain largely distributed in the upcoming year, software focused on these aspects of work are mission-critical apps.

These functions fall under the umbrella of work management, and it’s here that organisations can look to consolidate their tools, while also offering their business more than simple continuity.

A work management tool that acts as a single source of truth across the organisation and integrates with each department’s existing tools can streamline the tech stack and make work more engaging. If it can integrate with those must-have function-specific apps, even better.

On a more granular level, though, who should CIOs have in mind when selecting a tool?

Put your employees' needs first

IT leaders now have an opportunity to reshape the employee experience in a way that drives engagement, productivity and satisfaction. That’s why collaboration tools should offer teams greater clarity on their roles and responsibilities, streamline communication or processes and, ultimately, provide employees more time to focus on the deep work that matters to them.

A close understanding of what matters to a workforce is key to putting the right tools in the right hands and enabling businesses to thrive. CIOs and other IT leaders can’t operate in a bubble. Speak to people, survey employees, crunch usage data and understand the market before investing in any solutions.

However, there are some features that are universally helpful, and worth consideration. For example, a default to transparency in mission-critical applications can drive clarity, autonomy and accountability. In a work management tool, if teams are able to find the information they need of their own accord, time is saved on needless back-and-forth. If they have clarity on deadlines and ownership of tasks, there’s no need for unnecessary meetings.

Going further, automation is increasingly key to creating an efficient workplace especially at enterprise level. Choosing a tool that can complete regular tasks like moving data from one source to another both streamlines workflows and makes work more engaging by reducing time spent on admin.

Fundamentally, though, any workplace technology isn’t about the bells and whistles. It’s about users and their experience.

Make your tool stack an essential part of your company culture

With teams working remotely, or distributed across the office and home, the experience of work and a focus on culture has become both more important to teams, and the key differentiator for businesses.

What’s more, tech is the primary way in which teams now connect, so the role of IT leaders in creating an engaging and attractive company culture has never been greater.

While remote working opens businesses to a wider pool of talent, without an office buzzing with coworkers, how do you standout from the competition.

There’s not a silver bullet—the right technology won’t create a company culture. However, technology can help communicate that culture and connect employees with it regardless of location. Critically this technology is available at enterprise level, designed to integrate various elements such as video collaboration and communication software into a single-source platform.

We might not be able to meet new coworkers in person, but nobody wants to feel like they’re simply tapping away at their laptop for some unseen, interchangeable, business. Collaboration tools should not only help current teams stay aligned but make onboarding new coworkers a breeze. Once welcomed to the fold, visibility of their role and responsibility as well as those of their teammates, and a clear sense of the overall mission of the business, can drive a connection and engagement with work.

Mission-critical apps today are closely connected with culture. And, a clear digitally-enabled culture will not only engage current teams, but outshine competitors in the battle for talent.

Thriving in 2021

Amidst the pandemic, IT teams have had to rapidly adapt organisation systems, seeking solutions that not only enable continuity but level-up work, and help to drive a distributed culture.

Today, every aspect of work is tech-reliant, with mission-critical applications the tools that underpin everything an organization does from delegating tasks, to connecting teams to onboarding new joiners.

Work management and collaboration tools are at the heart of this, functioning across all aspects of an enterprise level business. As IT teams look to the future they must pay attention to what technology can offer, putting their employees’ needs first and ensuring that their tool stack is integrated into the company culture.

Getting it wrong can leave an organization disconnected, teams without cohesion and new joiners floundering. Get it right, though, and the next normal will be a time to thrive.